Cartago is a city in Costa Rica, about 25 km (16 mi) east of the capital, San José. It is at an elevation of about 1435 m (some 4,707 ft) above sea level, at the base of the Irazú Volcano. Cartago is the capital of Cartago province. The city covers an area of 152,68 km². It includes the districts of city downtown: Oriental, Occidental San Nicolás (the main entrance to the city, at west), El Carmen (north), Dulce Nombre, San Francisco and Guadalupe (Arenilla). The city is part, with the cities of San Rafael de Oreamuno and Tejar del Guarco, of a continuous urban area that, in 2008, had a population of 156,600 inhabitants, according to the Statistics and Census Institute of Costa Rica.
The city was granted a coat of arms by King Philip II of Spain in 1565, and the title of Muy Noble y Muy Leal ("Very Noble and Very Loyal") by the Cortes (Spanish Parliament) in 1814. It served as the first capital of Costa Rica until 1823, when Republican leader Gregorio Jose Ramirez, moved the capital to the bigger city of San José, because Cartago wanted to unite the newly independent province of Costa Rica to the Iturbide's Mexican Empire while San Jose and Alajuela supported a Republican system. The city was severely damaged by major earthquakes in 1822, 1841 and 1910. In 1963, a volcanic eruption of Irazu Volcano which for two years covered San José in ash badly damaged some agricultural areas around Cartago, but not the city.